Can a narcissistic partner change?
Can a narcissistic partner change in a heartbeat when they suddenly realize that they risk losing you once and for all? This is the question that victims of narcissistic abuse constantly ask themselves… in the hope of arriving at their preferred answer.
Today, I want to look at how you can deconstruct the things that they say to convince you so as to save yourself further pain and heartbreak.
Almost all narcissistic partners will tell you, at some point in the breakup process, that they have seen the light and are now changed people.
But can you believe them?
No. Absolutely not. You cannot believe them because
a) They have no heart to mention.
b) It’s a bad question. The real question is not whether they can change but whether they will change. You already know that a narcissistic partner never does what they don’t want to do.
All emotionally abusive partners use lies and manipulation to retain power and control over their partner/victim. So, what makes it so difficult to see the lies and manipulation for what they are?
If you have ever been vulnerable to a narcissistic partner you need to understand,
- How their lies and manipulation work.
- What makes it so hard the relationship and liberate yourself from their tentacles, once and for all.
The relationship is not over just because you finally find the strength to tell a narcissistic and emotionally abusive partner that you want out. That should signify the death knell of the relationship and the beginning of your journey to freedom and happiness. Unfortunately, it does not. Instead, that abusive (ex-)partner simply ramps up some of the best-performing lies and manipulation that they have always used to bamboozle you.
When the going gets tough, your narcissistic (ex)partner simply applies the best strategies that they can come up with – invariably, lies and manipulation – to ‘play’ you.
Most commonly used lies and manipulation
Obviously – although it’s probably not at all obvious to you – Mr (or Ms) Nasty refers, immediately, to the Emotional Abusers’ Hymn Sheet. That’s the Hymn Sheet they always sing from – and run their emotionally abusive relationship from. They know there are 4 hymns that are PERFECT for the occasion. Their take on,
- The Whitney Houston number: “You have NOTHING, if you don’t have me…”
- Whitney again, “YOU will always love me”.
- The Police’s “Every breath you take (I’ll be blighting you)” and,
- Kelly’s “If I could turn back the hands of time”. (That’s about the nearest an emotional abuser will ever get to an expression of heartfelt regret. Still, it begs the question of who on earth they thought they were to behave so badly in the first place.)
It’s the fourth, and most persuasive, option that we need to look at.
Happily my very own Mr Nasty, provided me with a textbook example of how to “play” a disgruntled and disenchanted woman – after I had shown him the door.
It is often said – and rightly so – that a victim of domestic abuse is most at risk when their departure becomes a reality for their abuser. The risk of violence escalates. But so, too, does the risk of massive emotional and psychological manipulation.
The way my Mr Nasty went about it was, I have to say, masterful. I had already left – which meant that he urgently needed to reassert his control. Since I refused to speak directly to him (a sane choice when dealing with a manipulative snake) he had to get creative. Knowing that I am a total dog nut, he sent me a card bearing a photo of a cute, wistful-looking dog. (This was especially impressive since he hated both cute cards and dogs (as well as cats, and pretty much any living animal you can name.)
The message that he wrote (he also hated writing “loving” messages) was a masterpiece. 66 exquisitely crafted words. It read simply,
L1 “Dearest Anne,
L2 How are you? How was Budapest?
L3 I’d like to open up a dialogue with you. Would you like to as well? Or is it too soon. If you
L4 prefer to leave it until you feel it is time, do let me know.
L5There is so much that I would like to share with you. You are always on my mind.
L6 I love you.
The Narcissist’s lies and manipulation deconstructed
L1. He never, ever called me “Dearest”. So the word was calculated to prove to me, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he was a Changed Man. (FYI, he never called me Annie, either.)
L2. He actually asked me how I was! (This uncharacteristic interest in my health and well-being proved his transformation. Previously he didn’t ask because he didn’t care. Now, he had become a sensitive, reconstructed man, in touch with his feminine, touchy-feely, caring side.) What’s more, I’d been to Budapest on my own, and he could mention that trip (which we had planned to do and booked together) en passant, without having a hissy fit. What more proof could I possibly need that he had become a resentment-free zone?
L3. How much more reasonable and reassuring could it get than a man who wanted to “open up a dialogue”? What kind of heartless, unreasonable bovine would I be NOT to want to do the same thing? “Or is it too soon?” Sheer G-E-N-I-U-S!! He subtly conveys his underlying conviction is that we both know that we will open up this dialogue – t he only question is when.
L3-4. “If you prefer to leave it…” Just “let me know…” Could anyone, in the whole history of the world, be more reasonable than that? How he must have grown up emotionally to be prepared to face a possible rejection! Well…. not exactly! Rather this seemingly insignificant sentence points up the deviousness and low cunning that all emotional abusers use to great advantage. You need to understand that “opening up any kind of dialogue” is actually abuser-speak for, “Give me an opening, however small, and I promise I will use it to mess with your head until you don’t know if you are coming or going”.
l.5. “So much I’d like to share”. One neat little phrase to stir up massive amounts of hope, curiosity and, above all, the What’s-In-It-For-Me? factor. Then there’s the “S” word – Share: that could only imply a whole new departure on his part. What had he ever shared before except anger, criticisms, and negativity?)
L5. “You are always on my mind.” Super-smart. Here he piggy-backs on the late, great Elvis’s heartstring-yanking expression of remorse. How could something so romantic NOT be sincere? (N.B. My Mr Nasty always sounded most sincere when he was being utterly insincere.)
L6. “I love you.” Gosh! The “L” word freely volunteered. Then again, he did always know to pull that word out of the bag when he needed to.
L7. Three whole kisses!!! Was this a subtle hint to start planning the renewal of our wedding vows. Certainly, he was well aware of my long-term fantasy about showing the world and making the relationship work – even after a gazillion false starts.
I’m sharing this precious piece of literature with you because this was happened to me and, one way or another, something similar happens to every woman who walks away. Most people who has ever tried to walk away from an narcissistic and emotionally abusive man has experienced this entire formula – in one form of words or another. (And, yes, the lovey-dovey messages surely alternate with threats and anger.)
What an emotional abuser knows
All abusers know full well that when you’re down, you really want to believe the dream that their words still hold. But remember this:
Narcissists go to the trouble of lies and manipulation because they sees it holds an advantage for them. You are convenient to them. Having you around to do their bidding and exercise power over makes them feel better about themselves.
It’s all about them.
And that brings us right back to the “Can a Narcissist change?” question.
The best answer to the “Can a Narcissist change?” question?
How did my Mr Nasty’s efforts pan out?
If you’re even asking that question, then you could be a bit of a Hopium Addict.
By the time he sent that card, I had stopped believing him and stopped hiding the truth to make him – and myself – look less bad.
More to the point, that question remains a really BAD one.
A much better question is: What happens to me if I keep entertaining the hope that a Narcissist can change?
The short answer to that one is:
“You will be suckered. All over again. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a few nice promises, and things may look up – for all of 5 minutes. Then, you’ll be back to business as usual. The only difference is that you will be even more weary, discouraged, and broken-hearted than you were before.” Can you afford that?
If you’re still struggling to resist your abusive partner’s lies and manipulation, then my book Married to Mr Nasty might well help to focus your mind on the reality of the situation.
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
The 5 Simple Steps to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
Over the next 5 days, I'll send you some lessons and tips that I've found have really helped women to heal from narcissistic abuse. Starting with the basics.